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      Adoption Procedures and Legal Requirements in Sumner County, TN

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      Tennessee’s Requirements and Laws Regarding Adoption

      Around 1,200 children are adopted each year in Tennessee, and while adoption can be a wonderful way to add to your family, it’s also a complicated, emotionally challenging, and time-consuming process. The state laws governing adoption are extensive, and it’s crucial that adoptive parents adhere strictly to these laws to ensure that an adoption is legal and binding. When you are dealing with a process as serious and life-changing as adoption, you need an experienced adoption attorney who can guide you through each step.

      Requirements for the Adopter

      According to state law, any person who is over the age of 18 and has been a resident of Tennessee for at least 6 months is technically eligible to adopt. However, each adoption agency and method has its own requirements for who can adopt. Adoption agencies can generally set their own standards, which may include only adopting out to married couples or those with high financial stability. A biological parent who is choosing to give up their child through private adoption may have specific things they are looking for in an adoptive parent, such as being of the same race or religious background.

      Adopting from foster care also has its own separate requirements. To adopt a child through this system, you must be at least 21 years of age and be a resident of Tennessee. You must also be able to show that you can meet the physical, financial, and emotional needs of your current family members and can support another child. For example, if you are struggling financially to support the children you already have, it could be harder to adopt.

      In most cases, you will also need to complete a home study and complete an education program specifically for prospective adoptive parents.

      Requirements for the Adoptee

      To be eligible for adoption, a child’s parents must have consented to the adoption or have had their parental rights terminated through the courts. In cases where the parents are voluntarily relinquishing their rights, there is a mandatory 72-hour waiting period to do so after the child’s birth. This is designed to give the parents time to carefully consider the decision once the child has arrived. However, this waiting period can be waived by a judge in some cases if it is determined to be in the interests of the child. Birth parents also have 10 days after voluntarily relinquishing their rights to change their minds. Consent of the biological parents is not necessary for adult adoptions.

      It’s also important to note that Tennessee has specific rules for who can advertise that a child is eligible for adoption. This can only be done by agencies that are licensed by the state, lawyers, and licensed clinical social workers. A child that is advertised for adoption by anyone other than these groups may not actually be eligible for adoption.

      Consent of a Child 14 Years of Age or Older

      If the adoptive child is at least 14 years of age, they must also consent to the adoption. They must sign a written consent form that is filed with the petition to adopt. If the child is unable to consent due to a disability or another issue, a guardian ad litem can provide consent on behalf of the child.

      The Adoption Process

      Adopting a child is a lengthy process that involves many steps. While there can be some variation depending on the type of adoption, they follow the same general process. The first step in the adoption process is for the biological parents’ rights to be terminated. If you are adopting a child who is in foster care, overseas, or already placed with an adoption agency, this step may already be done.

      The next step is to confirm that you meet the eligibility requirements to adopt. This involves researching the agency or method of adoption you want to use and learning more about the requirements and the cost to adopt. Once you’re ready to proceed, the next step is generally to go through any mandatory training and the home study. This needs to be done before a child can be placed in your home and can take several months.

      Once you’ve been approved to adopt, it can take some time to find a child who is a good match for your family. It’s important to not rush into any decisions and ensure it’s the best fit for your current family and the child.

      The last step is the final adoption hearing. The judge will go through the petition to adopt and all the related paperwork to ensure that the child is eligible for adoption, the biological parents have terminated their rights, and you are eligible to adopt. If everything looks good, the judge will issue the final adoption order, and you can go home to celebrate as a family.

      Working With an Attorney for a Smoother Adoption

      The adoption process can be challenging, and there are many hurdles along the way. It’s not unusual for an adoption to fall through at the last minute because the biological parents changed their minds or for the entire process to take much longer than anticipated. While there’s no way to make it stress-free or easy, working with an adoption attorney can ensure that you’re following the law and have a dedicated advocate as you navigate this path.

      If you’re interested in adoption and need a lawyer in Sumner County to help you through this process, contact Garner Law Firm at (615) 502-4336. Our experienced attorneys are available to help you understand the adoption options in Tennessee and get the process started.

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